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Reports say coalition troops gathering on Pakistani border

Latest update : 2008-07-17

Speculation is rife that coalition forces in Afghanistan may be planning strikes against militant hideouts in Pakistan’s North-Western Frontier Provinces or the North Waziristan region. NATO, meanwhile, has denied the reports.

Speculation is rife that coalition forces in Afghanistan may be planning strikes against militant hideouts in Pakistan’s North-Western Frontier Provinces or the North Waziristan region.

“Residents close to the border say that deployment of NATO and Afghan troops has increased along the Pakistani border,” Javed Aziz Khan, a Pakistani journalist based in Peshawar (for news daily The News) told FRANCE 24 in a telephone interview. “Residents have seen military planes flying and it could be that coalition forces are trying to cross into the Pakistani border.”

The journalist’s comments confirm reports in the Pakistani press and in the British newspaper The Times, according to which hundreds of NATO troops were airlifted on Tuesday across the mountains from the Pakistani village of Lowara Mandi, an important base for cross-border attacks in Afghanistan. Heavy artillery and armoured vehicles were also being moved into position, the newspaper reported.

Pakistani tribal elders raised the alarm this week over what they said was a build-up of hundreds of NATO-led troops on the Afghan side of the border.

NATO has denied the reports but has urged Islamabad to do more to stop Taliban militants taking refuge in their country. “It’s rubbish and there is no military build-up against Pakistan,” Mark Laity, NATO’s spokesperson in Afghanistan told FRANCE 24, in reference to media reports.

Pakistani army officials too played down the rumours, calling the movement of troops on the Afghan side routine. The US military in Afghanistan told FRANCE24 that they could not comment “for the moment”.
Blame game

Afghanistan and India, along with the US, accuse Pakistan’s shadowy Inter-Services Intelligence, or the ISI, of sheltering ousted Taliban leaders and Islamists in the north-western provinces of Pakistan.

Pakistan’s former ISI chief, retired Lt.General Hameed Gul, calls the accusations “baseless and just ‘an exterior manoeuvre’ - a way to soften the target and prepare for an attack on Pakistan’s tribal zones.”

“The US and its allies in the region (Afghanistan and India) want to project Pakistan as a rogue state because they are convinced that they need to strike Pakistan to put an end to terror,” Gul told FRANCE 24. “Our country’s economic and political situation is in turmoil and these countries feel it’s unsafe for us to possess a nuclear weapon.”


Insurgents holed up in Pakistan


There has been a sharp rise in cross-border attacks in eastern Afghanistan by insurgents coming from Pakistan, according to Afghan and NATO officials. They blame the de-facto ceasefires between the Pakistani military and militants in its lawless tribal belt.


On Wednesday, NATO forces in Afghanistan hit targets in North Waziristan with artillery and attack helicopters after coming under rocket fire from across the border, the alliance said in a statement.


Troops from NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) "received multiple rocket attacks from militants inside Pakistan, July 15," the alliance said in a statement. "The troops identified a (compound) as the point of origin of the attacks and responded in self-defence with a combination of fire from attack helicopters and artillery into Pakistan."


US troops pulled out of a remote outpost in northeastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, three days after Taliban militants killed nine US soldiers, the biggest single loss of life for US forces in Afghanistan since 2005.

Date created : 2008-07-17